Boats carrying fleeing Rohingya sink in Bangladesh; 26 dead

Laura Christensen
September 2, 2017

In September 2016, the Kofi Annan Foundation and the Office of the State Counsellor - in collaboration with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi - established an Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. From the time of the UPA government, when the Myanmar junta was cooperating with India on flushing out safe havens for Northeast militants, New Delhi has always felt it "unwise" to make any statements that would be perceived in Myanmar as "pro-Rohingya".

Thousands of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other local ethnic groups have also been displaced - the apparent targets of militants who are fighting under the banner of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Myanmar's army launched an offensive in Rakhine following attacks on security posts in the state.

The latest deaths raised the Rohingya death toll to at least 40 on Friday, all of whom who died in the river trying to leave Myanmar.

The rag-tag unit has a real fight on its hands against Myanmar's well-equipped army, which has been offered military assistance from Bangladesh to root out rebels near the border.

But the journey was arduous - and many Rohingya did not make it, turned back at the border by Bangladeshi soldiers. "It's mostly women and children".

A group of Rohingya refugees takes shelter at the Kutuupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

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Bangladesh is under intense worldwide pressure to allow the fleeing Rohingya to cross into its territory, but it has pushed a number of them back, in what rights groups say is a contravention of its global obligations.

Bangladesh already hosts 400,000 Rohingya and does not want more.

Considered by the United Nations as the "most persecuted minority group in the world", the Rohingya are branded by Myanmar as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The situation in Rakhine is a "matter of great concern", a senior MEA official said on Friday, adding, "A large number of people have lost their lives". In the first six days after the August 25 attacks, the International Organization for Migration said at least 18,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh. "The anti-Muslim violence of 2012, and the emergence of the new insurgent group past year were both clear signals that the volatile dynamics of Rakhine state urgently need a political, not just a security, response to address the concerns of all communities in the state". On Friday thousands walked through the slushy paddy fields, many with just the clothes on their backs.

About 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in Myanmar's Rakhine state, but they are denied citizenship and are seen by many officials there as "illegal immigrants".

The Muslim community has been under a military siege in Rakhine since October 2016. They have often met grisly fates at the hands of human traffickers and even the coastguards of other nations.

Other reports by My Hot News

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